Let’s Talk: Exam Stress

With my university exams starting this week I haven’t been able to think about much else recently and have had my fair share of “Omg I’m going to fail. What if I don’t get into third year? My housemates will have to find someone else to take my room. I don’t know what I’d do. Imagine having to tell my family…”and so the panic and spiralling continues moments. Sound familiar?

In an attempt to snap myself out of these moments of impending doom I began compiling a list of reasons why I shouldn’t get myself worked up about exams in the notes section of my phone. I now quickly whip up this list when I start to feel another panic coming on. So today I thought I’d share this list with you in case any of you are in the same boat and in need of some calming affirmations šŸ™‚

1) People won’t think less of you if you don’t do as well you’d like

I find that a lot of my worry is actually to do with what others will think of my grades rather than what I will think. This is so wrong! Two quotes that are perfect for reminding me of this are:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

“More than she was known for her accomplishments, she was known for the way she loved.”

-Morgan Harper Nichols

Do you like spending time with someone because they consistently score the best in the class, or do you choose your friends based on how much they make you laugh and feel good? Exactly! What you score on a test says nothing about how lovely a person you are. And if someone looks down on you or judges you for not doing well academically then I don’t think they’re the kind of people you want to be surrounding yourself with.

Grades are dependent on so many factors other than just how smart you are. You could be the most brilliant mathematician ever but be having a really tough time mentally or at home when you’re trying to revise so that the end result doesn’t at all reflect how capable you are.

2) “Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.” – Walt Disney

No need to stress if you’re doing your best. And remember that ‘your best’ doesn’t mean pushing yourself to the limit i.e. spending all your time revising and completely ignoring sleeping, eating and all the other things we need to do in order to keep ourselves up. These things are necessary regardless of how busy life gets. Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup.

3) The outcome will be the same regardless of whether you spend your time feeling anxious or calm.

In fact, it’ll be 100x better if you’re calm as you won’t have suffered so much! I often try to remind myself that I have the power to be calm and happy even during exam season and that being stressed, although it sometimes feels like it’s the compulsory/default feeling for this time, only lessens my number of happy days. Let’s not let exams, or any external pressure for that matter, take away our happy days as they are ours to have and are unfortunately not limitless šŸ™‚

4) Following on from (3), don’t wait for Summer to be happy, enjoy life now even in the business. You won’t get this time back.

5) In the words of Florence and the Machine, “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back so shake him off!”

For exam season I use this as a reminder that it’s hard to do your best when you’re weighed down by stress. I also find that dancing around in my bedroom or having a karaoke session in the shower works wonders for relieving stress and tension! Honestly don’t know how I’d cope without music!

6) List the top 2 most important things in your life

What are the 2 most precious things in your life right now? The things you couldn’t do without? I guarantee that they are completely independent of how well you do in your test. E.g. for me they are my health and my friends/family. Neither will be affected by exam results.

7) This busy period will be over before you know it so hang in there! šŸ˜‰ The feeling you’ll get when you reach the finish line will be worth it.

I don’t know about anyone else but I’m finding that the weeks are flying by even with being in lockdown! My Granny claims that time has sped up since man went to the moon and even though I’m a science student I can’t help thinking she might be onto something haha! Definitely feel like I blink and it’s clap for the NHS night again another week on!

8) “Look at the next step, not the entire staircase.”

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by how much you have to cover before the test but remember that the only thing you need to concern yourself with is the next small chunk of revision you have planned for today.

It’s like when I was younger and my parents would take me on a walk up the Mourne Mountains, and being my impatient younger self I couldn’t wait to get to the top and would be constantly torturing my parents with, “How much longer do you think it’ll take?” and making calculations of how far we’ve covered in how much time. But I eventually discovered the technique of keeping my head down for a while, focussing on the path in front of me and then after a while stopping and seeing how far I’d come and always being so surprised at how much progress I’d made. So instead of looking at how much you have still to do, focus on the next step and then the next one, and eventually you’ll get that immensely satisfying feeling of seeing how far you’ve come. So try to focus on what you can do today, then keep taking that approach tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that until you’re done!!! šŸ™‚

9) Every little helps šŸ™‚

No, I’m not advertising a trip to Tesco’s to relieve exam stress but hey if that works for you, keep on doing you haha. I’m actually talking about how even that one paragraph in a textbook/your lecture notes you read an hour before the exam could just help you answer the question needed to get you over that pass mark or give you a leg up to the next grade.

10) Following on from (9), it’s never too late!

Feel like you’ve left your exam prep too late? Don’t just throw in the towel, even an hour of looking over the exam material will probably result in a better outcome than if you just give up and accept your fate. As the author C. S. Lewis says, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

To summarise, spending large chunks of your year in poor mental/physical health because of exams/deadlines isn’t worth it and doesn’t need to be the case. Yes grades are important for getting us to where we want to go but they aren’t as important as our wellbeing and our happiness (I’m still trying to get this into my own head as well!)

Being a student definitely has its stresses which can have very serious consequences. This is why it’s so important to try and keep it all in perspective. Grades shouldn’t dominate your life or take away your peace. To finish off I’d like to share a link to a poem posted on the UK eating disorder charity Beat’s website which highlights this message to me. It’s called ‘A letter on a piece of paper’.

Good luck to all of you taking exams at the minute, especially in these unusual circumstances!

Take care,

Emma x

Published by shestooblessed4stress

Student in the UK blogging about stress/anxiety and tips to manage it (as well as the odd ramble about life and some poems)šŸ˜Š

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